Review Date: July 5, 2011
Released by: Vivendi
Release date: April 5, 2011
Widescreen 1.78 | 16x9: Yes
Thereís an old clichť that states there are only two certain things in life: death and taxes. Iíd like to add to that: ďcrappy Sci-fi channel monster flicks.Ē It seems they churn these things out faster than most people change socks. Their pervasiveness is matched only by their predictable awfulness. Popping Behemoth
into my DVD player, I had no illusions that it was going to be a good movie. The real question was just how bad it was going to be.
The town of Ascension, nestled at the base of a dormant volcano, has been experiencing tremors of unusual frequency, duration and magnitude. The town sheriff dismisses it as nothing, but deaths start to pile up: two military investigators have already died in a rock slide and a logger mysteriously dies immediately after breaking his leg. This understandably doesnít sit well with the head of the logging crew, Thomas Anderson (Ed Quinn
), whoís determined to find the cause of his crewmanís death. This means trying to (unsuccessfully) dissuade his younger sister Grace (Cindy Busby
) from night camping on the mountain with her boyfriend while fielding his mentally ill father Williamís (William B. Davis
) paranoid, end-of-the-world fantasies about awakening Mayan monsters. How much you want to bet, by the end of the movie, Tomís going to regret ignoring his father?
Enter pretty, plucky seismologist Emily Green (Pascale Hutton
). Sheís determined to find out what is causing the anomalous readings her equipment has been registering and heads up the mountain. Meanwhile, another military man Jack Murray (Ty Olsen
) arrives and enlists Thomas to guide him up the mountain to find the missing teamís equipment. After Emily discovers a cloud of carbon dioxide seeping from the mountain she manages to convince the Sheriff, her uncle Matt (Garry Chalk
), to order an evacuation of the town. Realizing that his little sister is camping and wouldnít have heard the evacuation order, Thomas heads up the mountain to find Grace with Emily tagging along for, I dunno, moral support?
Anyway, weíre a good hour into the movie at this point and the titular Behemoth has barely made an appearance, which is just as well considering what it looks like when itís actually revealed. The last third of the movie is your typical low rent affair, with lots of solemnly intoned dialogue, shaken cameras, contrived action all culminating in a ridiculous climax that is more insulting to your intelligence the longer you think about it. I guess the filmmakers didnít suppose anyone would bother to think about it.
If Sci-fi Channel movies were just junky little B-pictures, I really wouldnít have any problem with them. Iím fully able to take a movie with a grain of salt (or a teaspoon, if need be) to help make them palatable. They donít need to be good, thatís a standard thatís unrealistic for these movies, they just need to not be utterly terrible. Not an unfair or unrealistic standard to hold anything to, really. Even a single scene, creative kill or clever creature design can elevate a Z-grade endeavour to passable entertainment.
Thereís nothing in Behemoth
to elevate it out of the Z-grade dung heap, though. Thereís just a lot of bad dialogue, stilted delivery and some crappy CGI thrown in at the end. Special mention really needs to be made of the dialogue: even by the standards of direct-to-cable/video junk, itís some of the worst Iíve ever heard, and itís coupled with some of the most stilted delivery imaginable. The characters have a real knack for stating the obvious and doing so in the most colourless way imaginable.
Emily [blandly]: ďIf this were [a volcanic eruption] everybody in town would be dead from the blast.Ē
Thomas [stonefaced]: ďBut weíre not.Ē
You noticed that, did you?
tries to be a global apocalyptic thriller but really canít manage to evoke a sense of danger. After the awesome spectacle of movies like 2012, these types of thrillers are out of reach for low budget filmmakers to manage convincingly. Isnít the fate of an entire town enough to get us involved? You canít create a sense of impending global disaster by shaking the camera and having the actors fall over and pretend to break their legs.
While weíre on the topic of ďshaky-camĒ that is often the target of cinephile rage, a movie like Behemoth
can serve as an object lesson in how not to employ it. It truly provides the contrast to help put those criticisms into perspective. While someone like, say, Paul Greengrass uses edgy camera work to create tension and visceral engagement in an action scene, here itís used to obscure the fact that nothing is actually happening. Despite criticisms to the contrary, in a Michael Bay film you can follow the action as long as you remain actively visually engaged with the picture. I defy anyone to tell me what is happening during the ďactionĒ scenes in Behemoth
. I imagine director David Hogan (alas, not the same David Hogan that directed Barb Wire
) saw some of these new action films and decided that it would be a good motif to adopt, but didnít have a clue as to how to do it properly or to any effect. Iíd almost encourage critics of the new American visual aesthetic to watch Behemoth
just as an illustrative point in a film that actually does commit the sins wrongly attributed to other movies. Almost.
The showdown with the creature is ridiculous in a way that defies words. A creature large enough to cause planet-wide seismic disturbances can be killed by a single rocket? A rocket that doesnít hit the weak point speculated upon by William? Considering that the creature dies immediately after its big reveal, maybe it died of embarrassment when it realized how stupid it looked.
The biggest reason Behemoth
fails is because itís so unrelentingly dull. Even people looking for a bad movie will be disappointed by this. While the dialogue has some real howlers, the genuine pearls come too infrequently to make for a good drunken group heckling. The CGI is run-of-the-mill low rent stuff, neither good enough to be interesting no bad enough to get any big laughs. The cast is just cashing paycheques and the direction is cookie cutter bland. There is literally no reason to watch this movie, unless youíre specifically looking for something isnít quite as awful as Sharktopus
. If thatís the case, have at it.
The only faint bright spot in the entire movie is the absolutely adorable Jessica Parker Kennedy (who was equally adorable in Another Cinderella Story
) as waitress Zoe. Sheís cute and spunky and seems naturally at ease in front of the camera whereas everybody else looks stilted and awkward. Unfortunately sheís given nothing to do except spend the last third of the film trying to climb a step ladder. I kid you not, thatís her big moment: climbing a ladder. The excitement never ends in the town of Ascension, does it?
The quality of Behemoth
ís video presentation is befitting the quality of the feature itself. The interlaced image means that the shaky cam sequences are rife with ghosting and motion blur. Even in the still scenes thereís a lot of stair stepping present on diagonal surfaces. Overall, the image is soft and thereís an abundance of mosquito noise in the darker scenes. The day time scenes are a bit better but fine detail is lacking throughout the entire film. Itís watchable, but just barely. In this day and age thereís really no excuse for a new film not having a progressive transfer.
The audio quality is a bit of an improvement over the video, but at this point thatís a fine hair to split. The 5.1 mix is largely front channel heavy but thereís the occasional use of surround effects and low end that make it stand out a bit. One sound in particular, a high pitching whining present when a lap top thermographic image is displayed, will crawl into your ear and nestle at the base of your spine. I wouldnít call it good so much as effective. It should be noted that the sound designers clearly donít understand how to mix a convincing soundscape: whenever the film cuts away from the lap top image, the sound disappears even though the characters should still be able to hear it.
Disappointing is the lack of alternate language tracks or even subtitles of any kind. Not that I think non-English speakers or the hard of hearing should be subjected to this movie but these features should be automatically included on every DVD released. Their absence is inexcusable.
There are no supplements provided, which is just as well. I didnít want to spend one minute more thinking about Behemoth than I absolutely had to.
The movie is terrible and dull and the presentation sub-par in almost every respect. I think you can guess where I stand on this one. Donít see it, donít buy and donít rent it. Donít even watch it for free. Behemoth
will steal 90 minutes of your life and give you absolutely nothing in return. Itís a mountain of monstrous mediocrity thatís best forgotten.
Movie - D
Image Quality - C
Sound - C
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 5.1 Audio